I’m convinced a psychological glass ceiling exists as well. And it begins as a product of a culture that is telling girls “Yes, but.” Yes, you can be powerful, but you still be nice while you do it. Yes, you be smart, but make sure you don’t make anyone uncomfortable with your intelligence. Yes, you can be active, but you be sexy and skinny while you do it.
We know that one of the causes of the lack of diverse representation of women in media and film is that there are not enough women behind the camera, not enough women telling their stories, and not enough of these stories being produced.
We also know that media both reflects and shapes the culture. The (excellent) tagline of the documentary film Miss Representation comes to mind here: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” From childhood, girls see representations that reinforce the idea that girls are secondary to boys. As they grow up, the disparity continues. Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender & Media has reported that in family films males outnumber females 3 to 1 and females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. We know that these statistics don’t improve in media for young or adult women.
Rachel Simmons’ talk at TEDx Women suggests that as young women grow up, the media barrage telling them that they can be powerful, as long as they don’t offend anyone, sends mixed messages that, along with institutional sexism, prevents women from achieving leadership positions:
In other words, Simmons argues that enlightened sexism is holding women back, even at a time when women in the United States outpace men in education (women have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance, and college graduation), women remain a significant minority in positions of leadership.
In Hollywood? We know how women currently fare there.
Watch the Rachel Simmons video, with an introduction and personal story about female friendship from Claire Saninni: